out of Five
Running time: 142
With Avengers Assemble, writer-director Joss Whedon delivers what is pretty much the perfect superhero movie, combining a brilliant script, pacey direction, thrilling action sequences and pitch-perfect performances from a terrific cast.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, Avengers Assemble is the culmination of Marvel Studios' long-held desire to bring their super-group comic to the screen, a project that was first set in motion when Iron Man became a smash hit. The film opens with tricksy Norse God Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stealing powerful energy source the Tesseract from Nick Fury's (Samuel L Jackson) SHIELD organisation, after which he plans to open a portal to space so that an alien army can invade the Earth.
However, as we've seen over the post-credits stings of previous movies, Fury has been preparing for just such an occasion, so he summons Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and nervy scientist Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), along with slinky ex-Russian spy Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and crack archer Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Together they must work as a team to defeat Loki and his alien army, but there's the small matter of fighting amongst each other to resolve first.
The performances are terrific, particularly Ruffalo as the haunted-but-coping Banner and Hiddleston, who brings intriguing layers to Loki and makes him much more than the typical one-dimensional villain (note how often he smiles, even when things aren't going his way). One of Whedon's key strengths is the expert juggling of multiple characters and he doesn't disappoint here, ensuring that everyone gets their chance to shine and finds time to bring depth to previous supporting roles such as Johansson's Black Widow (transformed here into a fully-fledged kick-ass heroine) and Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson.
Whedon is a fully paid up Marvel geek (he has written numerous comics) and he duly delivers a fabulous script that's packed with witty lines (the film is often laugh-out-loud funny), knows to keep the plot as simple as possible and is never far away from a jaw-dropping action sequence or a punch-up. He also throws in several nerd-pleasing nods to the comics and, crucially, ensures that the story remains rooted in the characters, while still managing to inject moments that can only be described as Whedon-esque.
In addition, Whedon maintains a cracking pace throughout, orchestrating multiple action sequences that are genuinely exciting to watch, including a spectacular alien-bashing third act that is full of non-stop superhero based thrills. Similarly, the CGI work is impeccable, though the 3D is largely not worth the attendant loss of light and colour – see the 2D version instead.
Whether you're a die-hard Marvel fan or a relative newcomer, Avengers Assemble is quite simply the most enjoyable 142 minutes you'll have in the cinema all year. Highly recommended.